Literally, I’m about to tell you a story.
As most of you know, I spent a few months on my trusty Trek, riding my bike across the country back in 2005. In fact, this random adventure was the catalyst to this blog (Check out post #1 here!) As one would imagine, I have a stockpile of incredible memories from this trip: rabid dogs chasing me down the road in West Virginia, sleeping behind a strip mall in Kentucky, escaping a deranged sadomasochist in Arkansas. The list goes on and on. However, some of my most vivid memories are those that tell the story of kindness.
One story in particular is at the front of my mind today, so I’ll share it with y’all. We were less than a week into our journey, and had barely hopped over the state border into Kansas. I have to admit, I was suffering.
As with most things I do in life, I had launched into this bike trip head first. I had only purchased my road bike 3-4 weeks before we left, and clipless pedals were a skill that I was acquiring while we rode across the state. Needless to say, my lack of preparation and training as a cyclist left me in a world of hurt that first week. My ass hurt from sitting on the bike, I was sunburned like the white girl that I am, and I was exhausted from six days straight of constant pedaling. In short, I’m sure I was a cherub to be around!
We rolled into the very small town of McDonald, Kansas around 5pm. The town has a population of roughly 150 people, so it did not take us too long to scour the area in hopes of finding a restaurant. We found the single bar in town, propped our bikes up against the front door, and headed inside to grab some dinner.
Of course, our spandex-clad bodies caught the eyes of all 10 bar patrons, but I was so famished that I barely even noticed. We settled into a table, ordered, and looked outside as a massive freaking storm blew into town. As we sat there and munched on our burgers, rain poured from the clouds, thunder shook the window panes, and lightning lit up the blackened sky. I sadly watched as a wind gust threw my bike sideways, into a large puddle of water. Every single possession I owned was on that bike, and it was now sopping wet….including my sleeping bag.
Eventually, as storms often do in the midwest, the storm passed and the rain subsided. However, the damage had been done. Everything was a muddy and wet mess and Steve and I were feeling pretty hopeless. This trip hadn’t been about the money for us; we only stayed in a hotel once a week in order to shower and get a good night’s rest on a real mattress. The other six nights were spent in our tent, usually camped out somewhere illegal like a park or behind an abandoned building. Besides, it wasn’t like McDonald offered any type of lodging accommodations anyway. A town of 150 people does not have a hotel!
We were mulling over our options for the evening, trying to determine how cold we would get sleeping out in the mud with no sleeping bags, when a elderly man walked over to us. I don’t remember his name, but I definitely remember his face. In fact, I’m pretty sure it resembled Santa Claus.
He told us that he and his wife lived in a farmhouse down the road, and we were more than welcome to spend the night with them. Although Steve and I were a little creeped out at the prospect of sleeping in the home of complete strangers, we were not sure we had any other options. Besides, I was pretty uncomfortable and being a girl, verging on tears 🙂 We accepted his offer and pedaled our soaked bodies down to his farm.
As it turns out, it was one of my favorite memories of the entire trip. As soon as we showed up, his sweet wife came running out of the house to give me a hug. She didn’t care so much about Steve, but she seemed absolutely horrified that I was in my current situation. (I got this a lot on my bike trip; people seemed to accept that Steve could spend months on his bike, but it truly horrified them that I would do the same. Maybe a female thing?) In the end, they gave us their guest bedroom and let us use their washing machine to clean all of our clothes. We even woke up the next morning to a homemade farm breakfast of eggs, bacon and pancakes!
Writing this now, I’m not sure I can capture the kindness of this Kansas couple. What they did for us was incredible. They trusted two unknowns, spandex and all, and invited us into their home and their life, no questions asked. It was pretty amazing. Even today, I know I’d struggle to do the same.